The magic of Morocco
The stretch of Albany Street where South End Pita sits is forlorn - until you walk inside the charming little restaurant. Warm mustard-colored walls hold a row of sconces, a mural of a Moroccan city is facing you above the counter, and the Arabic pop with a reggae beat is turned up.
In May, Fez native Rod Ouassaidi opened the 20-seat spot in the former Albany Sandwich Shop. His sister, Wasaa, works with him. One or the other is there every day, making almost everything from scratch. “We don’t believe in frozen or canned,’’ says Rod. “For hummus, we soak chickpeas.’’
That hummus, drizzled with spicy oil, is exceptionally creamy with tahini; it’s served on beautiful Moroccan pottery with warm homemade pita (the pair is serious about their from-scratch philosophy). Grape leaves with rice are tender little nuggets accompanied by an addictive garlicky tahini sauce.
The menu is limited: a few appetizers and a soup ($3.50), meats stuffed into pita and rolled up ($5.95-$7.50), subs ($6.50-$6.95), and kebab, which come with rice and salad ($6.95-$10.50). It’s beautiful rice, studded with vegetables, and a fine salad with feta.
Kafta, rolled in pita or on a plate, is delicious, spicy, charred ground meat. Moist chicken shawarma, sliced off a vertical rotisserie, is nicely seasoned, wrapped in pita with salad vegetables and tahini sauce. The roll-ups are warm and a little crisp outside from a panini press. Lamb kebab (below) is a winning dish, slightly chewy, flavorful morsels, perfectly cooked. Rod Ouassaidi uses as much halal meat as he can get.
The clientele, says Wasaa, comes from Boston Medical Center, Shawmut Design and Construction, artists, the flower market, and Boston Sports Club, “since the food is very healthy.’’
South End Pita is sending platters to the medical center; the pair want to expand this catering division. To draw in customers, they offer any roll-up except lamb for $5 on Mondays, and free meze with your beer or wine any weeknight in an early happy hour.
Crunchy baklava ($2.50 and $4.50), with a thick filling of walnuts, isn’t too sweet; even mint tea, which you can buy in a bottle, is available in a homemade version.
Rod and Wasaa Ouassaidi’s mother is coming to visit from Morocco, at which point the brother-sister team are expecting some culinary pointers. They want to start making entrees such as tagine and couscous.
When he and Wasaa are in the kitchen, Rod might say to her, “Let’s make this like our mom used to make.’’ Then he stops to consider: “Whatever we can cook, we can never cook better than our mom.’’
Spoken like a good son.